It often happens when we move into leadership roles that we feel the pressure and stress of being the person who is ultimately held responsible for the success of students in our school or in our district. Ultimately, the bucks stops with us, and we are the ones held accountable. We can find ourselves struggling internally because on the one hand, we want to build a climate and culture where people are empowered to make decisions, take risks, and push themselves to continuously learn and grow while on the other hand we secretly worry…”What if they make the wrong decisions?” As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we have to be the expert on everything and be responsible for every decision. The truth is, though, that we can’t be the experts on everything that happens in our schools… If we try to be, we will exhaust ourselves and most likely still fall short in some areas. The fantastic news, though, is that working in districts and schools, we are surrounded by teams of people with incredible expertise in a wide variety of areas. As leaders, it’s important to free ourselves from thinking we have to know everything and instead embrace the multitude of talents, gifts, and expertise that lie within each and every person who works with us. Unleashing the genius in those around you ultimately contributes to a thriving culture where people feel valued and are willing to learn and grow alongside the others with whom they work. It also contributes to your growth as a leader… as you open yourself to learning from and with your team, you continue to develop greater expertise.
As mentioned in earlier posts, while there are times where direct feedback is essential, we have found that engaging in collaborative conversations about teaching and learning have greater impact on a person’s willingness to try something new, to learn, and to grow. Collaborative conversations are much more likely to help you build a culture of commitment as opposed to a culture of compliance. You can survive as a leader if you create a system where people are compliant and you can get results, but you and your school or district can’t thrive without commitment. So, here is this week’s #LeadLAP challenge…
Choose 1-2 days this week where you set aside 30 minutes to visit classrooms and 30 minutes to engage in collaborative conversations with the teachers whose classrooms you visited. Visit each classroom for 5-10 minutes and then let the teacher know “Thank you so much for having me in your classroom today… I always learn so much when I visit! I’d LOVE to chat with you about the lesson I observed today… do you have some time later when we can do that?”
When you and the teacher are together…
- Drop that APPRECIATION ANCHOR face to face
- Comment on something you NOTICED and share the impact
- Ask a question based on what you observed
- Respond to what the teacher shares and ask another question
- Have the teacher share his/her thoughts about the lesson and share some of yours
- If the teacher shares a struggle they were having or something they are trying to make better (which they often do), acknowledge that it is something great to be thinking about and brainstorm ideas together
- Encourage the teacher to try one of the new ideas that came out of your conversation and to let you know how it goes… better yet ask when they are going to try it out and offer to pop in to see how it goes
- Thank the teacher for his/her time
- Don’t make assumptions about what came before the 10 minutes you observed or what happened after. Ask a question instead: “When I walked in, kids were doing_____. Tell me a little about what happened before I came in the room.” “How did it go after I left?”
- Don’t do most of the talking, remember this is a COLLABORATIVE conversation – shoot for a minimum of a 50/50 balance of talking and listening
- Don’t try to mask criticism as a question, people will see right through you.
Have fun with this challenge… The one on one face time we get with our teachers is rare and oh so precious! Appreciate and enjoy the time you have together.
We can’t wait to hear how it goes!! Share your thoughts and reflections using the #LeadLAP hashtag all week and join @BethHouf and me for a 30 minute reflective #LeadLAP chat on Friday at 7:30 CST.